FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter returned on 8 October 2001 from a 3-day trip to Tunisia where he was delighted to see the vitality and the development of the national football.
During his stay, the FIFA President attended a CAF Champions League match between Tunisian club Espérance de Tunis and South African team Sundowns, which ended 0-0. He also visited the 7 November Stadium, a superb brand-new stadium with a 60,000 capacity, and Espérance de Tunis' training centre. There are currently four training centres in Tunisia, proof of the structural evolution and growing professionalisation of football in the country.
The FIFA President rounded off his visit by giving the closing address at a medical seminar in Tunis, organised to coincide with the launch of the F-MARC programme this season in the Tunisian First and Second Divisions. The F-MARC programme (FIFA Medical Assessment and Research Centre) is a four-year project developed by FIFA's Medical Committee. Its main objective is the study of football-related injuries and their repercussions on players' performance and development.
The highlight of Joseph S. Blatter's trip was undoubtedly his private audience with Tunisian President, Ben Ali, who bestowed upon him the honour of Grand Cordon of the Order of the Republic of Tunisia in acknowledgement of his far-reaching endeavours to develop football throughout the world.
Finally the President of FIFA confirmed that the African nations, with the exception of South Africa, will be granted free access to the TV signal of all matches at the next World Cup.
Joseph S. Blatter paid tribute to Tunisia, whose national team recently qualified for their second consecutive World Cup Finals, the third in their history. In 1978, Tunisia were the first African team to win a final competition match in the ultimate test of international football, beating Mexico 3-1.